It’s the Chinese year of the ram |

It’s the Chinese year of the ram

The Chinese New Year, which begins Friday at midnight, will be celebrated with firecrackers, torches, incense, food and parades.

In China, Taiwan, and Chinese American communities, the year is 4701 according to a lunar calendar. This year will honor the ram.

A legend spread during the new year celebration deals with Nien, a beast that eats people. Firecrackers are lighted at midnight in an effort to scare off the monster. Because Nien is believed to fear the color red, red paper and torches are posted to ward off the beast.

Red paper scrolls are hung up and covered with phrases meant to promote good fortune, wealth, or longevity. The scrolls are posted upside down to signify the arrival of spring.

“The lunar calendar is based on the agricultural season,” said Paul Chang, director of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in San Francisco. “You get all the harvests in the wintertime.”

On New Year’s Eve at midnight, family members gather to eat a special meal. Relatives tell each other kung-hsi, which means congratulations.

“It’s a time for family planning and to review what was done last year,” Chang said. “It’s like a family reunion, just like Christmas here.”

Chinese Americans typically get one day off from work to celebrate the new year. This year, they don’t get time off because the holiday is on a Saturday. In Taiwan, which liberated itself from mainland China in 1949 in a civil war, they take about one week off from work, Chang said.

In California, celebrations are planned in San Francisco and San Jose. Chang said many Chinese who live in the Bay Area are Cantonese, an area in southern China.

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